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 The Arab–Byzantine wars were a series of wars between the mostly Arab Muslims and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 11th centuries AD.

The result was the victory of the Muslims and the transition of the Levant from the Byzantine rule to Islamic rule. The battles began in the era of the Caliphate Abu Bakr and continued by their successors until mid-11th century.

 

Prepare for confrontation

After the defeat of the Persian Empire, it was necessary to confront the Byzantine Empire, which was in the Levant at that time. This vision was present in the mind of Abu Bakr, who was keen to pursue the Prophet's policy of expanding the Islamic state.

After consultations with senior Companions, Abu Bakr began preparing Muslim armies to invade that country. So, he prepared five armies as follow:

The first army:

It was led by Yazid bin Sufyan, has 7000 fighters. Abu Bakr ordered Yazid to take move towards Damascus through Tabuk route and gave him some valuable advice regarding his role as an army commander. He warned him to flee or withdraw when confronting with the enemy because that angered Allah. He also warned him to kill children, elders as well as breaking the covenants, and in the case of victory, the clergy in churches should not be harmed. The army left in "23 Rajab 12 AH /3 October 633 AD" towards Damascus.

The second army:

Shurahbil bin hassana was appointed the commander of the second army, and his goal is Busra, the capital of Houran.  The army was about 4,000 fighters. Abu Bakr give him the same advices given to Yazid, in addition to the emphasis on prayerو patience and remembrance of Allah Almighty all the time. The army left Madinah on 27 Rajab / October 7, 633 AD, on the same route of Yazid.

The Third Army

Led by Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah towards Homs. It was about four thousand fighters.

The Fourth Army

The fourth army led by Amr ibn al-Aas, whose goal is Palestine. The army was consist of about seven thousand fighters. Abu Bakr gave him some religious, political and military instructions.

The Fifth Army

Led by Ikrima bin Abi Jahl, was kept in Madinah as a back-up support, with about six thousand fighters.

Abu Ubaidah was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the entire army.

 

The Byzantine Reaction

Hercules was then in Palestine. When he heard the new about the Muslim armies, he called for a meeting with his advisers for consultation. He realized at that time the seriousness of the Muslims to advance towards the Levant, so he suggested to avoid fighting and initiate a conciliation with them.  His view was giving them half of the Kharaj (land tax) is better than losing the entire Kharaj.

 

However, the advisers opposed this view, then he agreed to their opinion, although he was recognized of the danger of Muslims to his property and state, so that he left Palestine and settled away in Antioch in the far north of the Levant, to direct armies, instructs his commanders and runs military operations.

 

The Byzantines in the Levant had two major armies, the first in Palestine, numbering seventy thousand fighters, while the second in Antioch, about two hundred thousand fighters, most of them are Armenians and Romans.

Hercules sent an army to every army of Muslims. The army sent to Abu Ubaida was about 60,000 fighters. The Muslims were afraid to confront that army because Abu Ubaida's army was small compared to the army of the Byzantines. Abu Ubaida sent a letter to Abu Bakr asking him for advice. Abu Bakr ordered all the armies to meet in Yarmouk , then all the armies of the Byzantines followed them there.

The confrontation

Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was interested in invasion of Damascus more than Iraq. Therefore, he sent for Khalid bin al-Walid in Iraq and ordered him to take half of the people from there and leave the other half under the mandate of Muthanna bin Haritha Al-Shibani. Abu Bakr promised Khalid that if he wins in the Levant, he will return him to Iraq as per his wish.

Khalid responded to Abu Bakr's request. On April 8, 634 AD, he left with an army of nine thousand fighters and penetrated the desert that separates Iraq from the Levant in about eight days. On his way to the leavant, he opened the small cities that were under the Byzantine rule: Quraqer- Arc- Tadmur - Al-Qaryatain - Ghouta - Busra. When Khalid arrived at Yarmouk, during a council of war, the command of the Muslim army was transferred to Khalidi by Abu Ubaidah, Commander in Chief of the Muslim army.

At that time, Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, passed away and Omar bin Khattab became the Chaliphate of Muslims. Omar sent a message to Khalid informing him of the news, but Khalid hided the news about the Muslim armies in order to preserve their moral spirit until they defeate the enemy. The Muslim armies comprised about 40,000 fighters, while the Byzantine army consisted of 240,000 fighters. The Muslims fought hard and fiercely. Women also took part in the fighting, including Gueriyeh, the daughter of Abi Sufyan. About 3,000 of Muslims were killed in the battle, including Akrama ibn Abi Jahl and his son. However, Muslims won the battle against the Byzantine thanks to Allah.

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